I was afraid, as a young parent, of losing something. No, I was afraid of losing someone. I was afraid when I would go Christmas shopping that when I turned around my child would be gone, lost is a crowd of faces in the toy section. One time, at ValleyFair, I lost Emily. We had been in the Berenstien Bears’ area, and when we went to leave, she wasn't there. We were with a group that instantly transformed into a search party. We fanned out. We sealed the exits. We search everywhere until we found her in one of the tree houses less than 15 feet from where she had been playing. Of course, there is a solution. I can hold onto their hand. I can grip the little hand tightly and surround their fingers with mine. And it works, for a time. And then their little fingers get too big to hold, and they are embarrassed that you are treating them like a child and you have to let go. You have to let go and let them walk beside you. I would still keep them in my sight, within a quick reach if there was trouble. I had let go physically, but I gripped them emotionally. Eventually a child becomes a teen, and chooses not to walk beside you. You still keep your eye on them, and you continue to walk in the same direction. You have already told them the destination, the goal, and they are headed in the right way. You keep communicating and you are there if they want to ask directions. At the end of a school year, I am reflecting about the youth ministry over the last nine months. Where did we do well? Where do we need to improve? How could I have been more dependent on God? Where did I miss the sound of his voice when He wanted to give me direction? When should I have held more tightly to His hand? Eventually, I lose everyone I am ministering to. Some will graduate and move on to better things and brighter teachers, but I know that we have the same destination and that we'll see each other when we get there. Others find a different church, perhaps with more kids, bigger programs, louder music and a dynamic speaker. That's harder to see, but again the goal is the same. Others just walk away. You see them drifting and you want to give them a little space. Maybe they are busy with a job, something at school, or a new relationship and you let go of their hand. You take a few steps and turn for them to catch up. Some do. Some don't. They just walk farther and farther away until you have to say that they are going in a different direction. You don't know if they'll find their way. I think about the father of the prodigal son. I think about how much he longed to run after his child and find him. He wanted to hold onto his hand and never let go. To carry him back home. He didn't. Instead he waited. He waited and prayed and eventually his son found his was back home. Some don't. Some do and there is much rejoicing. "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." John 10:29.